Failing Students (i.e. Denying Experience), “Struggling Students,” and Who’s Doing The Work?

This post seems to address quite a bit, but stay with me. As experts, teachers can design a quiz or test that every student would fail, instantly. Aside from designing those individual assessments, teachers can also design and implement grading systems prone to student failures.

That’s a lot of power.

When teachers fail students, especially when they haven’t been careful with their grading system, they deny students experience. Not only are these students unable to continue with their peers—a major aspect of adolescent development—but they’ll miss out on any electives having to retake the failed course for credit.

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The Daily Lesson Plan: Talk & Read

Teachers unaccustomed to speaking the target language in class are often a bit lost when it comes to providing input. Instead, the more familiar rule-based lectures and paired speaking activities of PPP (present, practice, produce), target culture projects, and perhaps target language movies all become quite alluring, seducing teachers back to the pedagogy of yore. Here’s a way to conceptualize class in a clearer way that maximizes input:

  1. Talk about something
  2. Read something

Now, from the student perspective, this would be “listen & read,” but the “talk” portion of class is very much led by the teacher, especially in beginning years, so it’s easier to think of this in terms of what you, the teacher, must do. Don’t get fooled by anyone thinking this is the kind of “teacher-centered” lesson that’s frowned upon. The content is student-centered, it’s just that students can’t express themselves fully in the target language. They don’t have to, and this is expected. They need input. Case closed. The “read” portion could be any reading activity, either independent, led by you, in pairs, groups, or all of the above…

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“Active Latin:” Confusion & Clarification

If you’re within the first years of speaking Latin in the classroom, I urge you to avoid using the term “active Latin.” In a nutshell, referring to “active Latin” is problematic, and just might lead you astray from what you intend to be doing.

A few years ago, some began recognizing the confusion “active Latin” was causing. This confusion is summarized below, with observations of people interpreting “active Latin” to mean that…

  • …Latin was to be spoken all the time.
  • …English was to be avoided, if not eliminated.
  • …students had to speak and write Latin.
  • …grammar had to be taught/learned in Latin.
  • …teaching in such ways meant that one was providing input (I) that was understandable (C) to the student.

**Before I continue, let it be clear that doing or not doing any of the bullet points is not the focus of this post. Instead, the focus is on this particular combination, how it’s referred to as “active Latin,” and its implications.**

When looking at the bullet list, it doesn’t matter what “active Latin” ever meant originally, has meant over time, or now means. What matters is that this confusion led to more emphasis on output, and a more polarized view of teaching Latin, in general. In particular, the combination of the first bullet points above doesn’t cause the last. Due to this confusion, there’s a problematic association with “active Latin,” and CI, which may or may not be provided under the listed circumstances.

Quite plainly, then, just because you’re speaking Latin, doesn’t mean you’re providing CI…

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WOWATS & Other Collaborative Storytelling Options

Last Wednesday, we did our first MovieTalk (yes, still calling it this because I have no intentions or expectations of students acquiring specific vocab, and that’s peachy according to Dr. Ashley Hastings’ 2018 note to teachers who were misinterpreting the method). Believe it or not, but Wednesday’s MovieTalk has been the *ONLY* story so far. Yep. Other than that, no stories. With student interviews (i.e. Discipulus Illustris/Special Person), discussions based on a simple prompt (i.e. Card Talk), and questions about the weekend and upcoming week (i.e. Weekend & Week Chat), class has been compelling enough without any narrative. But stories are awesome, and we have a ton of other MovieTalk texts already prepared for every other week, so I’m thinking now is a good time to get into collaborative storytelling…

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Input Analysis & Textbook Comparison

One universal thing we can discuss with any language teacher is awareness of how much target language we’re giving students (I, Input), how well they understand (C, Comprehensibility), and the reason for doing an activity (P, Purpose). In fact, this focus is central to our school’s Latin department, and keeping track of input is part of my teacher eval goal.

I covered an ELA teacher’s class last Friday, which means the most productive thing to do was complete some kind of menial task. It just so happened that counting up words is exactly that. So, I compared the input my Albāta class students have received to the Latin found in the first four stages of Cambridge. N.B. I chose the Albāta class section because they’ve read the most total words between all class sections (i.e. 1616 to 1755).

Indeed, Albāta students received about 36% more input than Cambridge (1755 to 1117). Surprisingly, though, the unique word count was also higher by about 24% (221 to 169). I wouldn’t have expected that with such an intent on my part to shelter (i.e. limit) vocabulary unlike what is found in textbooks, so let’s take a look…

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Zōdiacī & Weekly Routines

After writing about the first weeks of routines, it’s clear that Total Physical Response (TPR) is now only effective as a brain break. After all, moving about and gesturing isn’t as compelling now that we can hold actual class discussions. When it comes to compelling topics, though, Discipulus Illustris is taking off with zodiac qualities right now in first place in terms of holding interest. As such, I’ve updated the 2019-20 PPT with links to two qualities for each sign:

The follow up question is something like “do you have similar, or different qualities?” This has been awesome. Otherwise, next week introduces MovieTalk, and new Card Talk prompts beyond the four like/like to do drawings we got from the very first class. Talk about a lot of mileage out of that one; it’s been 4 weeks! With these new daily routines comes new planning needs and changes. One change is reading the Tuesday/Thursday Write & Discuss as a whole class (instead of a Do Now). Also, the second half of class on Wednesday/Friday will be devoted to reading; independently, as a whole-class, and then in pairs/groups. Here’s the updated schedule for the next 4-5 weeks, and Do Now/Daily Prep below that:

  • Mondays:
    Do Now – Draw what you did/something you saw over the weekend
    Prep – Determine Tuesday’s Do Now drawing prompt
  • Tuesdays:
    Do Now – [Drawing prompt]
    Prep – 1) Wednesday’s MovieTalk screenshot
    2) Type up text based on Do Now drawings, for Thursday
  • Wednesdays:
    Do Now – See|Think|Wonder (screenshot)
  • Thursdays:
    Do Now – In 1-2 sentences, summarize text (from Tuesday’s drawings)
    Prep – Determine Friday’s Card Talk prompt
  • Fridays:
    Do Now – [Card Talk prompt]
    Prep – Type up & print text based on Card Talk

No-Prep Planning: Using The School’s Calendar

On my school’s calendar, there are 10 vacation days, holidays, or 3-day weekends before the school week that lend themselves to a “what was X like?” no-prep discussion. That leaves roughly 25 other days back from the weekend. There’s the classic Calendar Talk, or Weekend Chat, but what else is there? For example, I have a poetry routine, which if started in January leaves only 10 remaining Mondays to actually plan for.

That’s it…10!

With classes meeting 5x/wk, the combination above just took care of all Mondays (i.e. 20% of planning)! This year, I plan to look at the school year more like this, especially as a department, seeing what events naturally lend themselves to providing content (e.g. big sports games, Superbowl, dances, election day, community parades, etc.). Also, that’s just everything we know about ahead of time, let alone any weekend events that get people buzzing (e.g. Notre Dame, community announcements, etc.).

So, how can you use the school calendar to gain even MORE planning and personal time?